As any Scientologist will tell you, science fiction writers are very influential people. For quite some time, ideas from science fiction have influenced innovation and design, and some have argued that most of our technological achievements of the past 50 years are owed to ideas from sci-fi literature. Recently, the Department of Homeland security held a conference in the Reagan Building, bringing in influential writers such as Greg Bear to move the gears on some far fetched concepts.
A federal research director fantasized about a cellphone that could simultaneously text and detect biochemical attacks. Multiple cellphones in a crowd would confirm and track the spread. The master of ceremonies for the week was Greg Bear, the sci-fi novelist whose book "Quantico" featured FBI agents battling a designer plague targeting specific ethnic groups.
"What if we had a black box that IDs DNA on the scene?" Bear asked a panel of firefighters and police officers. "Put a swab in the box. How long would it take us to do that? Would that be of interest to anybody here?"
"Absolutely!" said a police official from Fairfax County.
For now, things are obviously in the idea stage, but this is both an exciting and terrifying move on the part of the DHS. The examples mentioned are pretty benign, and presumably very useful. Things like tracking epidemics and identifying proper medication dosage are definitely steps in the right direction. However, the vagrant and the cynic in me has to wonder if the department will take these sort of ideas, especially as it relates to information sharing, and use them for just the sort of purposes that most sci-fi writers condemn in their fiction. Of course any and all speculation at this point is silly, but let's just hope that rogue scientists are working on "Minority Report" style eye replacements so that when the shit hits the fan, all of us dirty commies will be safe.